When Your Partner's Not on Board with Couples Counseling

"I know something needs to change. I've brought up counseling to my partner but they don't want to go. I think we need it, but they aren't budging."

Sound familiar? If this if you, you're not alone.  I hear this from clients (and friends) a lot.  It's a tough place to be in and may bring up a number of thoughts and feelings in you when you need couples therapy but you're partner is not on board. You may give up, bury feelings of sadness, fear, and resentment only have those feelings come out sideways at a later time. You may try to argue, coerce, threaten, or pester. You may even be passive aggressive. Unfortunately all these strategies are effective in making things worse, but not effective in making your relationship better or getting your partner to therapy. They may even reinforce your partner's idea that this is your problem and push them farther away from agreeing to work on their own part in all this.

"Yikes, that is NOT what I want!"

I know! My suggestion: take the advice of Gandhi to "be the change you wish to see in the world" and do couples counseling for one.

"But, Erika," you say, "if I go to therapy, the terrorists win! That's not fair. My partner needs to do this with me too."

Maybe. In a perfect world, you wouldn't couples therapy need it in the first place. But are you willing to give up or burn up the relationship because it’s not fair!?!

So, while you'd prefer for your partner to join, is that always imperative in order to create positive change in your relationship?? Maybe not. Here's some points to ponder...

  1. You are ultimately the only one you can change. The Serenity prayer says "grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."  You can’t change your partner, but you can change you and individual therapy can help with that.
  2. In systems theory, changing one part of the system can promote change the whole system. If you’ve been stressed, chances are you’ve been operating at a suboptimal level in your relationship. It’s possible the poor communication and bad habits of your partner are a reaction to some of your poor communication and bad habits. When you change you, it’s possible some of those negative feedback loops can change too.
  3. When you are working on you, you are in a better position to suggest the other person be working and changing too. When they see that therapy isn’t horrible, it isn’t about blaming, and that it’s promoting change that benefits both partners, some people are more open to going themselves.
  4. Waiting until both people agree to get help often means both people are in crisis, both have been severely hurt. Both are, simultaneously, more desperate for change and more deeply stuck. And then people wonder why therapy doesn’t feel helpful. The deeper you dig that pain pit, the longer it takes to crawl out of it...even with help.

For more info about how to create change in your relationship, contact us today. We're here to help.